ALBERTSON, N.Y. — The Viscardi Center (TVC), a network of non-profit organizations dedicated to educating, employing, and empowering children and adults with disabilities, hosted its most successful fundraiser to date on May 19, 2016. Over 850 community leaders, philanthropists, and celebrities attended the 50th Annual Celebrity Sports Night and raised a record-breaking $4.4 million for the enhancement and expansion of TVC’s programs and services.
For five decades, Celebrity Sports Night has drawn all-star athletes to Albertson, N.Y.—and the Golden Anniversary event continued this tradition in a big way. New York Giants quarterback and two-time Super Bowl champion, Eli Manning, four-time Emmy Award-winning host of HBO’s Real Sports, Bryant Gumbel, and former New York Jets quarterback and four-time Celebrity Sports Night guest, Joe Namath headlined the event.
The star-studded line-up included Sarah Hughes, Lee Rousen, Mookie Wilson, Mike Stromberg, Mick Foley, Ed Kranepool, Kym Hampton, John Schmitt, Karl Nelson, Bud Harrelson, John Dockery, Wesley Walker, and Victoria Arlen.
Arlen, who, against all odds, became a Paralympic gold-medal swimmer and ESPN reporter after a rare disease put her into a vegetative state for nearly four years, received the Roy Campanella Award for her achievements
“The Viscardi Center is all about hope for a better tomorrow,” she said. “I stand before you today as a living example of the power of hope, and how with it, almost anything truly is possible.”
Presented by the Ralph & Lucy Palleschi Family Foundation and Chaired by John J. Gutleber, President and CEO of Castagna Realty Co., Inc., the night honored long-time supporters Ralph F. Palleschi, President and COO, First Long Island Investors, LLC and Richard J. Daly, President and CEO, Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc.
Additionally, many of the event’s past honorees and chairs which make up the Legends of Viscardi Emeritus Board—Co-Chaired by Michael C. Pascucci, Chairman of Netrex LLC, and Stephen M. Ross, Owner of the Miami Dolphins—each received a statue of Dr. Viscardi to recognize their lasting impact on The Viscardi Center and Celebrity Sports Night.
Honorees and special guests were also presented with an original art piece created by students from the Henry Viscardi School (HVS), which provides specialized education for children with severe physical disabilities.
Upon receiving his award, Manning described his visit to The Viscardi Center as an “eye opening” experience. “These kids are the real champions,” he said.
During the red-carpet cocktail reception, attendees had the opportunity to meet and snap photos with celebrities, and bid on sports memorabilia-themed items in a silent online auction. Following a formal sit-down dinner, celebrity guests and HVS students participated in a series of skits and musical numbers directed by JoJo Starbuck, former Olympic Figure Skating Champion. A live auction, featuring a selection of exclusive experiences and packages, concluded the night’s activities.
At the end of the event, John D. Kemp, President and CEO of The Viscardi Center, thanked donors for investing in the futures of the children and adults with disabilities, while noting the challenges still facing the community.
“All of you here tonight are Viscardi’s biggest fans, our long-term donors who have seen your investment returned in students and consumers who graduate and became valuable, contributing members of our communities,” said Kemp, noting the Center’s responsibility to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. “The Viscardi Center is one of the very few places in the country that educates medically fragile children with severe disabilities, guides adolescents towards lives of independence, and trains and places adults with disabilities in jobs.”
TVC’s ultimate goal, said Kemp, is to “perfect” founder Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr.’s vision of inclusion by building new ideas and plans that provide individuals with the tools to overcome obstacles and live fulfilling lives.
“It’s magical here at Viscardi,” Kemp said in closing. “That magic happens every day thanks to [our supporters].”
The Viscardi Center will host its 51st Celebrity Sports Night on May 18, 2017. All proceeds from Celebrity Sports Night support programs and services that directly benefit the lives of children and adults with disabilities on Long Island and in the New York metro area.
About The Viscardi Center
Founded by Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., who served as disability advisor to eight U.S. Presidents and became one of the world’s leading advocates, The Viscardi Center educates, employs and empowers children and adults with disabilities. It provides Pre-K through High School education, school-to-work transition services, vocational training, career counseling and placement, assistive technology, adapted driver education and workforce diversification assistance to children, adolescents and adults with disabilities.